Baby Steps Make Sense — I’m Seeing It Firsthand

For years, I’ve been saying I want to start running. When I was a kid in Queens, I was pretty fast, and I loved playing and running and getting dirty. Then, I went to high school, got a job and never ran again. Life always seemed too busy, and it just wasn’t in my routine to run or really to exercise at all. College with its late nights of boozing and studying, medical school with its late nights of studying and less booze, young children with late nights of crying ,and occasionally more booze, all conspired to keep me in boots and flip flops and out of running shoes. I kept saying I wanted to do it, but another year would pass, then another. Runners would tell me about the ease of it, the high from it, the weight loss it contributed to, and still I kept walking. And now, in my late 40s, I had started to accept it was too late. Truthfully, I really, really just didn’t think I could run, and I was nervous and scared to try. I am still not sure I can do the running thing, but I am starting to think maybe I can.

Keep in mind, my goal is to run 3 miles. I’m not hitting the NYC marathon, other than with a cooler and a solo cup cheering on Larry, a friend or one of my kids. But, even this modest ambition seemed like an impossibility at those times, and there were very few, I gave it a try. I would become winded, my legs would hurt, I’d be sore the next day and sure I pulled something, and I’d sideline the whole running thing once again.

Like so many, during Covid, we got an exercise machine. Everyone wanted a Peloton, but I wanted a treadmill for walking, so a treadmill we have. It came with iFit, one of those programs that give you the feeling of a personal trainer or allow you to virtually run through a beautiful part of the world. While setting up to walk, I stumbled across a “running for beginners six week series,” set in breathtaking Portugal. Curious, I clicked on it, and three weeks in, I’m hooked, and definitely seeing results in both my stamina and the joy I am finding from moving — a very new feeling for me. Here is why it is working.

The trainer is very clear that small steps are the only way to go, and he explains the rationale from a physical standpoint. Little by very little, you build up your structures, bones, tendons, and ligaments by stressing them a small amount day after day, but not stressing them to the point of injury. I don’t know about you, but I have no time for injury. At first, it feels like you are doing almost nothing, but after a few weeks, the difference is clear. Nothing hurts, I can run longer, both from a strength and endurance standpoint, and I am truly enjoying the journey and looking forward to the next “growth run.” Anatomically, the whole thing makes sense, but there is another reason I am able to stick with it. It isn’t scary. There are no big, sudden changes or overwhelming goals. My mind can buy in.

We are evolutionarily predisposed to fear change. When we set enormous exceptions for ourselves, a basic part of our brain rebels and shuts down our motivation. This is a protective mechanism, and it is good, because it has kept our species alive. Change is, on a guttural level, bad, because it threatens our survival. Understanding this, it makes sense if you want to make a change in your life, whether it be weight loss, increasing energy, getting happier, sleeping better, finding a new job, anything at all, setting small bite-sized goals and taking baby steps is the key to success. To learn more, take a listen to my podcast on this topic, and share with a friend who is struggling or losing motivation to live a healthier life.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.